01. Kaedit Nos Pestis 02. Graveward 03. The Tombfiller 04. The Forlorn 05. The Molesters Of My Soul 06. Out Of The Grave 07. The Trial By The Dead 08. The Casketburner 09. A Messenger From Tomorrow 10. Dwellers In A Dream2015 Candlelight Records
A guarantee of any Sigh album is that weirdness is key, a defining trait that has followed them since their primitive days slinging out raw black metal and classical wackiness. At some point, it would seem inevitable that they would give in and stick to a particular style, but that has never been Sigh's forte. Each of their nine albums has defied any expectations. With Graveward, the record that pushes their full-length tally into the double digits, it's best to listen to all of the songs prior to forming any initial impressions. Once that happens, it's still difficult to pinpoint what Sigh is doing. Their music has always had this surreal density that is both simple to follow and tough to fully comprehend. Layers of vocal harmonies, brash symphonic noises, and screeching guitar leads coexisting with a blaring saxophone all prove there's nothing generic about the band. They're in a category that few other groups can aspire to be. This new album isn't mainstream, isn't playing to any trends, and will confuse many people; in other words, just a typical showing from Sigh. In Somniphobia (2012) pushed the avant-garde mannerisms hard, especially in a forty minute span that took up the middle of the record. It was a staggering listen that mostly lacked the direct nature of records like Gallows Gallery (2005) and Scenes From Hell (2010). Graveward still has those mannerisms, but they aren't highlighted as much. They peek out in the stirring "A Messenger from Tomorrow," which has the group leading a rousing response with the help of several guest musicians, including The Meads of Asphodel's frontman, and regular collaborator, Metatron. Sigh has always welcomed outside musicians to contribute to the madness. Arguably the biggest name brought in for Graveward is Trivium's Matt Heafy, who helps sing the chorus to the infectious "Out of the Grave." He's barely noticeable, fitting into the schizophrenic atmosphere like he's always belonged there. There isn't anybody else that most people would recognize, but no guest comes across as a jagged addition. "Out of the Grave" is not the only catchy song, as Sigh embraces their tuneful side. Tracks like "Dwellers in a Dream" have a very Gallows Gallery lean to them, where the guitars and keyboards bounce leads off each other and the tempo is kept upwards. While the title track feels like the band is heading off to a protracted war, "The Casketburner" is the day-long celebration that occurs after the war is won. It's frantic, but also plain-old fun to hear. The inclusion of prominent melodic vocals, especially during the first three or four songs, only reinforces the memorability that Sigh is driving for on Graveward. The band themselves is its usual solid force, though a major lineup change has new guitarist You Oshima taking the helm from long time member Shinichi Ishikawa. Oshima could have succumbed to the pressure, either trying to mimic Ishikawa or have a diminished role. Instead, he commands the songs, his riffs a gateway into a bad psychedelic trip. His prolonged solo on "The Molesters of My Soul" is a defining moment for the guitarist. A notable blemish on the album is the sonic quality of the album itself, a trait that has plagued the band across multiple albums. The most infamous instance of this was Gallows Gallery, which had such low production values that it was remastered less than two years after its initial release. This time around, the bass is nonexistent and the levels of the instruments vary. Sometimes the guitar are super loud, drowning out even the drums, and then other times are low enough to be buried by the whimsical keyboards or raspy yelling. It could have been this reviewer's copy of the album, but with complaints abound as the album's release came to pass, it doesn't seem confined to specific copies. That could have sunk Graveward, but not even any studio issues could bury the creativity and outright quirkiness. Sigh has never tried to be anything more than what it is; a black metal band that isn't a black metal band. Those days have long since passed them, and what exists now is an amalgamation of many complex theories and sounds. Graveward is Sigh being Sigh, a band always looking to push boundaries and always coming out stronger. Bottom Line: Another quirky album from Sigh that's impossible to categorize, which is to be expected from one of metal's most offbeat groups.